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Restaurant review: Amber

AA Grill finds out if this neighbourhood restaurant really needs the hype

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Amber

ACCORDING to its website, Amber wine bar and bistro is not only “fantastic”, but also “fabulous”. Not to mention – which they certainly do – “delicious”, “world-class” “sexy”, “cosmopolitan”, “innovative”, and, perhaps most impressive of all, “uniquely inviting”. Blimey.

In the old days, this kind of bollocks would normally be addressed directly to a journalist who would direct it into the nearest bin. But now the unspared excesses of PR go straight on to the web, cast in virtual stone.

The nearest serious competition is in Allerton Road where they are on course to provide every adult in the district with their own licensed premises by 2010.

You can’t really blame the restaurant; they want people to know they are there, and that’s what public relations companies are for.

The fact is Amber, in Mossley Hill, doesn’t have any great need to exaggerate its virtues. It is a perfectly nice place that speaks perfectly well for itself.

Opening a bistro in Rose Lane, the area with some of the highest house prices in Liverpool, might not have been the most reckless gamble ever; after all, there are only a couple of similar enterprises in an area awash with disposable income looking for somewhere to go other than the Boden catalogue, or a grand-a-week cocaine habit (That should read “cocoa habit” – ed).

The nearest serious competition is in Allerton Road where they are on course to provide every adult in the district with their own licensed premises by 2010. But it’s a bit of a hike up there, so a decent neighbourhood restaurant has obvious appeal.

Amber doesn’t feel like a cynical business decision. Only a certain amount of love and care could ensure that, even at a fraction of its capacity, there is a warmth and a buzz about the place. Inviting, if not uniquely so.

The owner’s intention was evidently to create a relaxing, Parisian-style bistro and it felt decidedly un-British the night we went, not least because – post 8pm – two children under 10 were ambling about the place and a recently-born baby was sleeping soundly at its mother’s table; a fact that nobody – neither staff nor customers – had a problem with.

I don’t know what kind of business they do in the daytime but I wouldn’t mind finding out; Sunday brunch looks a treat, with a broad menu embracing plenty of vegetarian options: blueberry muffins, eggs Benedict and the Full Amber Veggie among them.

If you think their PR is flamboyant, try the décor: an antique French bar that just about justifies the word “fabulous”, a lavish of chandeliers and three types of embossed wallpaper, one of which might have found its own company overpowering, without putting it in a room with two other extroverts. Instead, as one admiring diner sitting behind us observed: “Look, three kinds of wallpaper – but it works!”

The service largely tallies with Amber’s easy-going ambience, even if they were a bit anxious to take our order. The wine list is considered and extensive or, as the website insists, “world class” – Wayne Rooney with a cork in it (there’s a thought).

A major plus is the availability by the glass of the great majority of wines. Both the Waipara Hills sauvignon blanc (£5 per 175ml glass) and the cheaper choice Chablis (£5.25) that we tried were a little wanting in character – not what you might call Rooney juice – but, to be fair, I know of others who have been greatly satisfied by their dip into a commendable mix of old and new worlds.

To start we shared a seafood bento box (£10.95), which is what the Japanese eat their lunch out of. It wasn’t lunchtime, and it wasn’t Tokyo, but it made us very happy: mussels in a lovely, creamy, spicy soup which gently nipped at our taste buds; a load of whitebait, bright eyed and bushy tailed; tiny tuna oblongs on sticks; calamari, and excellent tempura tiger prawns, all with sweet chilli and aioli dipping sauces.

The best things about the sausages and mash (£8.95) were the mash – spuds mixed with bacon and black pudding (sounds dodgy, tastes great) – and a richly rewarding caramelised onion gravy. They outshone their pork relations: three types of sausage which I would strongly recommend only if you have left your false teeth in the house. Though flavoured nicely enough, they were devoid of anything approaching a meaty texture and while they may have been “locally sourced” they had not come from the best source.

Beer battered haddock with hand cut chips and mushy peas (£9.95) was not at all bad but would have been a whole lot better had it not been merely warm by the time it reached the table. With anything else it probably wouldn’t have mattered, but fish and chips has got to be eaten at one degree Celsius below the heat at which it blisters the roof of your mouth or you might as well forget it.

Puddings – a light, citrusy lemon and lime cheesecake and Amber’s take on Eton mess, with crème chantilly and fraise liqueur (both £4.95) – found the chef on good form again.

We liked Amber and any reservations concerning the menu are about sourcing and serving rather than any lack of proficiency in the kitchen. Nothing that can’t be fixed. Mediocre, it’s not, but there is work to do yet if words like “delicious”, “world-class” and “fantastic” are to be more than mere spinning on the web.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Amber Wine Bar and Bistro
193-195 Rose Lane
Mossley Hill
L18 5EA
0151 724 5169

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Edward PavilionNovember 9th 2007.

Sorry, Miss Lane! Really you have to blame the loud-mouthed wide-boy who opened "Kascades (sic)" in the historical former A.E.Reynolds garage on Rose Lane for bringing the area down.There used to be unjustifiably boastful adverts in the Echo to get bull-necked monkeymen down there on Sundays to eat meat with their bare hands!

Barbara DowdNovember 9th 2007.

I'm a regular here and can't fault the place. The staff, ambience and food are always top notch. Can't see why the critic has put so much focus on the PR and the website?......after all, surely its supposed to big the business up?

Allerton MazeNovember 9th 2007.

And would you believe it, a man shot in Allerton over the weekend.Allerton is going to be the next Boot Estate.

Need to knowNovember 9th 2007.

Didn't someone who shall remain nameless, from the Daily Post subs, once put the owners' keys in his pocket at La Bussola when he had had a few, and weren't they all searching the place until 4am, for them? And isn't that same journalsit supposed to be moving to Canada?

Liverpool ConfidentialNovember 9th 2007.

Thank you Graham Bandage for being so eagle eyed as to notice that Rose Lane was inexplicably listed in the address box as being in China Town. It now isn't, and never was. Ben, who put the story up: come here for a good thrashing.

JimboNovember 9th 2007.

Helen McHale – Let me get this straight, gerl! You bought a house on Rose Lane at the height of the property price boom and you can still afford to eat out regularly? Perhaps I could interest you in coming over to my slum to see my etchings?

Albert DockNovember 9th 2007.

Don't forget that a surprisingly large number of 'gentlemen' get shot outside these "gyms" too. I couldn't possibly guess why. I see that the once-proud Woolton Village is now to be a designated area for police to clamp down on antisocial behaviour. I'm afraid that south Liverpool has been on the skids for years.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2007.

I've eaten here millions of times, I love the place!! They do the best ever pate and sticky toffee pudding. You've got to try it!!

Brekkie ManNovember 9th 2007.

Fantastic Breakfast at Amber, worth getting out of bed for!

Edward PavilionNovember 9th 2007.

What on earth is "La Fitness" ? It sounds like it might be one of those 'gym' places where socially-inadequate orange-skinned chumps with more money than sense go to buy drugs.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2007.

that fish and chips is making me starving

Penny LaneNovember 9th 2007.

Do you mind. I am trying to sell my vastly overpriced house in Dovedale Road to the nearest dickhead

Edward PavilionNovember 9th 2007.

I must be getting on a bit. I remember when Allerton Road was posh and licensed premises were banned from the area. Now it's a mecca for lager-swilling fat slapheads in in footie shirts.

Phil McCrackenNovember 9th 2007.

haven't been to Amber, but Kinsella's down the road is excellent and I can't fault Odessy too

Graham BandageNovember 9th 2007.

China Town? I think you'll find Rose Lane is firmly situated in Mossley Hill's world famous Armenian Quarter (just down the road from Little Italy)

Helen McHaleNovember 9th 2007.

How Can anyone say that the Rose lane area has been 'brought down' by that kascades place.....which turned into LA fitness yrs ago??! I bought a house on Rose Lane last year and love it.Thank God for Amber its my second home. Love the atmosphere, food and staff. Although its only a 2 minute walk from Allerton Rd its a million miles away from the scally dickheads in flip flops!!

More tea, vicarNovember 9th 2007.

I remember when La Bussola up the road was brilliant. You could take your own booze from the Oddbins opposite and the food was terrific. You'd fall out of there at all hours in a right state. Happy days.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2007.

That fish and chips is still making me starving. Take it away please.

MancunianNovember 9th 2007.

I think i am in the wrong place.....

AnonymousNovember 9th 2007.

Whatever happened to Chris's Chippy? Is it still there? Or has it been knocked down to build yet another so-called "champagne lounge" for aspirational scallies in flip-flops and shorts (in November)?

Albert DockNovember 9th 2007.

Aye, lad! The nearest boozer was the Rose of Mossley and that had a lounge in which gentlemen had to wear jackets and ties well into the 1980s. It's full of scruffy monkeymen now.

Derek and CliveNovember 9th 2007.

It's good to find that little suburban restaurants like this are scoring well and great if you live by a little gem like this (which we don't, in West Derby, unfortunately.) Went to Amber with my mum for lunch last year just after it opened. Was very pleasant and now I think I'll go back

ThemammyMay 27th 2011.

I have visited Amber on numerous occasions over the last 5 years. I went this evening 27/5/11 and found that the portions are smaller and the price has increased slightly. We were not charged for a bottle of wine. Being honest, my husband pointed out the error and was not thanked and in fact not even offered a coffee as a thank you!! Never be honest at Amber!!!!

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